Wednesday, April 08, 2020

COVID-19 thoughts

By the middle of March Georgia had seen had 2445 hospitalizations for the flu and had 83 total deaths (since the beginning of flu season at the end of September). That's over the course of five months. 

Georgia currently has nearly 10,000 cases of COVID-19 and has already had 362 deaths (over the course of—what?—five weeks).

I know I'm going out on a limb here but I kind of want to say this is somewhat more serious than the flu. And probably (hopefully) you're on the same page. But there's a decent chance you're not.

I've seen (multiple) people trying to brush this off as a "New York problem." Like, it's super sad that it's happening there but it shouldn't really affect my day-to-day life, right? And I'm trying to wrap my mind around that kind of thinking.

There were 2996 deaths on 9/11 (and probably more deaths could be attributed to 9/11 if we calculated all the increased cancer rates and so forth). It was an even that sent the world reeling. People were scared. They were scared to get on planes. They were scared of Muslims. They were worried about "sleeper cells" and where they would strike next. They were just...scared. It has had a lasting impact on our society, reflected both in our collective psyche and in our laws.

3000 people in New York.

Nothing even came close to touching us in Utah (where I was when the towers fell), but we were still scared and somewhat devastated. And we all had to start doing things like taking off shoes at the airport and packing tiny amounts of liquids in a plastic bag and so forth. For 3000 people. In New York.

I'm not trying to make light of 9/11. That day was a terrible, terrible day.

But here we are facing this virus, which literally has sleeper cells in every single state, waiting to pounce. There have been over 6,000 deaths in New York (over 14,000 in in the country). And I'm seeing people brush it off as "it shouldn't really affect me." A friend told me that she doesn't like to see statistics that bundle all the states together because the New York statistics skew everything up, making the situation look a lot more dire than it is. Like, that's not really going to happen here. It's totally a there problem.

Which, mind you, is precisely what our government was saying about this illness a few weeks ago. Like, super sad that's happening in Europe and Asia, but, like, we're all the way over here, so...we'll be fine.

I just...don't think this something to be taken lightly. If your numbers look fine today, that doesn't mean they will look as lovely next week or the week after that. Now, to be fair, we are seeing the curve flatten quite a bit. There has been some cheering statistics coming out of Washington state, for example. Their numbers are remaining more constant than they were. Even our numbers in the states overall have gone from doubling every 2–3 days to doubling every 7 or so days. That's great news.

But it doesn't mean we can become complacent. And I just don't understand the "them-problem" mentality. This is a tragedy for our nation, whether your state has only 200 cases (hello, Wyoming) or 1800 cases (hello, Utah) or 8977 (hello, Washington) or 9901 (hello, Georgia) or 149316 (we love you, New York). This is not a time to stick our heads in the sand, or to say that one state's numbers don't matter, or to ignore the advice of health officials.

By the way, I know of several families who have fled New York, which is understandable...but it's also a super fun way for the virus to further spread in communities that hadn't been exposed to the virus. I'm not saying we should fence New York off; I'm just saying that as we see families fleeing the state, we'll likely begin to see more cases popping up in other states since some of those people will inevitably (and unwittingly) bring the virus with them. So, it might be a "them-problem" today, but it could be a "you-problem" sooner than you think.

I liked this video by Dr. Zeke Emanuel where he talks about dividing lines:
"No one is immune to the COVID-19 virus. It threatens all of us. But while we are all experiencing the same pandemic, we are not experiencing it in the same way.
The first dividing line is whether you or someone you love has gotten sick. Many Americans have not yet seen firsthand what devastation a positive test can inflict.
Another dividing line is whether you have a job that lets you stay at home, working as you juggle child care and video chats."
I think that sort of dividing line is sometimes rather evident in the way people talk about the virus. They (perhaps) think the virus literally doesn't affect them because other than a few day-to-day annoyances it really hasn't affected them. Utah, for example, largely hasn't issued any sort of stay-at-home proclamation.

I think we'll see these dividing lines get thinner and thinner over time, however, because even though the curve has begun to flatten we're still going to see an astronomical number of cases here (I know it's no Spanish Flu but it's honestly the most rampant epidemic since then so...).

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